How-To Recycle Older, Out-Dated PCs and Laptops

Computer technology advances at a very fast rate. Chances are you’ve upgraded or replaced your computer equipment in the last few years. Why am I so confident? The average desktop has a functional lifespan of between two to five years depending on your computing requirements. Similarly, a laptop or notebook have a functional lifespan of between two to five years as well. Most manufacturers usually offer a three year warranty which indicates what they perceive is a reasonable lifespan. Understanding the rate the computer technology improves – while you may have a functional lifespan of up to five years – you will most likely be owning outdated hardware in as little as six months.

Why Should I Recycle my Hardware?

It’s important to try to re-use and recycle everything we can but computers, laptops and their peripherals require special attention. Why? Consider the following facts:

  • In 2001 “e-waste” was responsible for 70% of the heavy metals and 40% of the lead in all US landfills
  • It requires 530 lbs of fossil fuel, 58 lbs of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water to make a single desktop PC and monitor
  • Contained in the 300 million already discarded computers is enough mercury to poison the Great Lakes over eight times
  • About 400 million pieces of consumer electronics are thrown away each in year in the US

Instead of throwing away your outdated hardware and creating more waste or storing it indefinitely – why not recycle it? If your computer is still functional you can always consider donating it locally to a family member or charity. If you have some technical skills and a DIY attitude you may want to revive an older Windows machine by installing a free Linux based operating system.

If you feel more comfortable donating your machine, then your first step will be finding a suitable new home for your older hardware.

Finding a Charity

Donating to a charity instead of individual will provide you with a receipt that you can use for tax purposes. The following services can assist you with finding a charity in your local area.

  • Share the Technology (USA)
  • DonateAPC (UK)
  • World Computer Exchange (Canada)

Finding a Non-Profit Organization

If you’d like to donate to a non-profit organization then the following service can help you:

  • Recycles (USA)

Make sure you check each organizations requirements for accepting donations. Some organizations have specific requirements such as restricting computer donations by age.

More Recycling Options

If you can’t find a local charity which is a good match for your hardware you can always consider:

  • Freecycle
  • Craigslist

Another option to consider is contacting your local city hall about its recycling policies. Many have designated days for collection computers and other electronics.

Before Donation

Before you donate your hardware you should back up your files just in case you might need them at a later date. To simplify this process you may want to consider an external hard drive or some useful free utilities such as FolderShare.

After backing up all of your data it’s always a good idea to wipe your hard drive clean. While some charities guarantee they will wipe your data, not all do. This includes removing your operating system. You can do this using free utilities such as Active KillDisk or Eraser.

At this point your machine should now be ready for donation.

Revive an older PC/Laptop using Linux

For those with more some technical skill and a DIY mentality then you may be pleased to learn that installing a linux distribution on an aging windows machine will breath new life into it.

Will switching your OS turn your old machine into a state of the art powerhouse? No, but it will provide basic functionality such as web surfing, word processing and email.

If you are interested in installing a Linux based operating system, then I recommend reviewing your options at DistroWatch. If that seems overwhelming due to the volume of choices then consider gOS and Freespire as free options or Linspire as an inexpensive one.

Remember, older PCs and laptops can be useful for charities, schools, family members in need and with a little TLC maybe even yourself.

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